This morning, about an hour before we'd planned to leave for our visit to Sana and Essa, I received a call from Sheba's ICU. They were requesting that we come immediately to be with Sana's mother because Sana was in very poor condition. After I shared the news, we gathered to pray, and then traveled as quickly as we could to the hospital.
Upon entering the ICU I could see doctors gathered at Sana's bedside, and Sana's mother standing nearby, weeping. The next hour and a half were spent praying, weeping, comforting, and trusting God, as several of us came alongside Sana and her mother. At one point I shared with Sana's mother that because I am a follower of Jesus, and firmly believe he is resurrected from the dead, that therefore he has the power to give life over death. I shared that I would not give up on this power, because the great love of God compelled him to send his son to overcome man's sinful condition. I said that I will believe God can change Sana's condition, no matter what happens before my eyes. Indeed, I believed and hoped to see Sana miraculously restored to life.
But today, this is not what happened. This beautiful girl died this afternoon, breaking the hearts of her dear family and all of us. It is a crushing loss. After a time to say goodbye to her precious daughter, we brought Sana's mother back to Jerusalem to remain with us while all the arrangements are made for their travel home. Please pray for all of the family as they wait to receive their loved ones again.
For those of us who have been alongside Sana and her mother, we are intensely sorrowful. Yet nothing will shake our confidence in the ability of God to bring his power to those in need of it. So let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.
Jairus came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. He pleaded earnestly with him, "My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live." So Jesus went with him...
While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagoge leader. "Your daughter is dead," they said. "Why bother the teacher anymore?"
Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, "DonÂ´t be afraid; just believe.' ...
He went in and said to them, "Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep." ...He took her by the hand and said to her, "Talitha kumi!" (which means "Little girl, I say to you, get up!"). Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around. (Mark 5:22-42)
Whenever I have been standing at SanaÂ´s bedside the last week, praying for her, two words always came to my mind: "Talitha kumi!" Although it does not seem that Sana will in the near future be able to get up and walk around, I want to continue to intercede for her, believing that God can perform a miracle in her life. He is her creator who knows her from the inside out. May our prayers for Sana and her family not be determined by the circumstances, but by trust in our almighty God.
The medical staff report that Sana's condition is stable, but there is concern over blackening of her fingers and toes due to poor blood circulation.
Medically speaking things are not much different for Sana at the Sheba Medical Center, and today's visit was a difficult one. She is resting under sedation again so that she will not feel the pain from her condition and the treatment it requires. There is some bleeding in her airway and esophageal passageway, and doctors are treating it with blood products and medication, waiting for a good response to the treatment. The lack of circulation to her extremities continues.
Very soon after I arrived doctors asked Sana's mother and I to leave the room so that they could replace bandages. Immediately following that, they needed us to stay out for a time to change the central line for her hemofiltration treatment. A larger one was placed to balance all factors involved in how her medication, hemofiltration, and circulatory system work together with all the other factors in her fragile condition. After the new line was in place, the specialists from the dilation staff came to re-start the hemofiltration machine. At that time, we had to head back to Jerusalem.
Sana's mother remains vigilant in her loving concern and watchful care of Sana as the ICU staff does their job, 24/7, to help Sana recover. She is tired, and asks for us to be with her more. The intensity of the circumstances makes for a heavy burden which she shares with her dear husband via telephone visits, with other friends and family members, and those of us who can visit her and Sana. We continue to look to the Lord to help Sana, to strengthen her mother and father, and to give us what is needed to come alongside them in the best way at this time. We make our requests known to God, and continue trusting his goodness and his ways. We ask for your prayers in all of these things, and also for wisdom and courage for the dedicated and caring medical staff who are attending Sana.
Today I again had the chance to visit Sana at Sheba Medical Center. When I was about to enter her room I suddenly remembered that Donna had told me the previous day that they had moved Sana to a bigger room with windows to the outside. I found Sana with half open eyes, responding to touches and speaking by facial expressions and eyes movement. Her mother was tired but seemed stronger than I had expected her to be.
We spent some time around SanaÂ´s bed, but then the doctors asked us to leave the room because they wanted to provide Sana with a new central line. SanaÂ´s mother and I left the room, sitting for a little while in the hallway before we went outside for a short walk. We talked about the improvement we had already seen in SanaÂ´s condition in the last couple of days and I remembered how we throughout the last week had hoped and prayed for Sana to wake up. Over the last couple of days we have seen this coming true. But it still is a slow process and everyone who loves and cares for precious Sana needs endurance, trust and faith in GodÂ´s perfect ways and timing.
But good news on one side (Sana is waking up) can be on the other side challenging. It seems that now Sana is beginning to feel pain. There are many lines, tubes and machines attached to her body which probably cause much discomfort. Also, the lack of microcirculation of the blood in her hands and feet, caused by medicine that is stabilizing SanaÂ´s blood pressure, surely causes pain for Sana. Although SanaÂ´s mother wants her daughter to be awake and to be able to communicate with her, more than this she wants her to feel no pain. That is what she told the medical staff, who are very attentive and open to her questions and opinions.
Please continue to pray for the complete healing of SanaÂ´s body, and for strength and peace for her mother and family.
Last Friday morning, after staying twenty-four hours a day for sixteen days at the Sheba Medical Center, we made the decision to return to a more "normal" routine of visitation and support for Sana and her mother, and Essa and his mother. It was not an easy decision in the sense of intensity of the need there. Yet all of us knew it was the right one in the sense of having done what we could to help carry the load for this time period, for these families. We left Sana with slight improvement, and upon calling the ICU intermittently in our absence, found that her condition continued to fluctuate. We know her mother is there, as are all the others, fluctuating along with the condition of her precious daughter. And yet the truth is that at any moment, the God in whom we trust, and to whom we're looking, can do the miracle we're asking of him. He doesn't require our presence for this, simply our faith in his goodness and ability. So we carry Sana, her mother, and her family in our hearts every moment in prayer and faith. God has not changed, nor is he any further away just because we've been less near to Sana's side.
Ruth and I were anxious to see her Sunday morning when we left Jerusalem, and thankful for the time we could spend with her mother in her long vigil. When we arrived, Sana was receiving hemofiltration for her kidneys. Doctors began this process on Saturday and it will be continuous for the time being. It not only does the job of the kidneys, but also improves her blood pressure, which had dipped dramatically lower several times over the weekend. Thankfully, it was steady while we were there. Sana's mother was understandably tired and melancholy. While I stayed with Sana, she took some time away to enjoy some fresh, home-cooked Kurdish food made by the other mothers at the Shevet house in Jerusalem.
As I love to do, and feel is important to do when I have opportunity, I stood at Sana's bedside and talked to her, sang to her, and prayed for her. I was encouraged to see that as I talked, her eyes, which were open, moved toward me. Ruth had noted before that both Sana's heart and respiratory rate increased when we spoke to her, and I noted this as well. Not only that, but she also moved her right shoulder once during the time I spoke to her. When Sana's mother returned, I shared this with her, and she too was encouraged. She began speaking to Sana and also saw Sana's eyes moving toward her. It seems Sana is definitely able to respond to our voices and encouragement, and nurses attending her agreed this is a good sign. We continue to hope she will fully awaken soon.
Just before we left for home, we received the report of a CT scan of Sana's brain which was done yesterday. Doctors ordered the scan to check for bleeding on the brain, but found nothing to indicate there was any bleeding. Praise God! It was not easy to say goodbye to Sana's mother, yet I assured her that God was with her, as were the prayers of people around the world. We will continue to believe for fullness of life for Sana in spite of the challenging things we see in the ICU. Please believe with us!
Jeremiah 29:11-13 "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart."
We continued to see small signs of improvement in the last twenty-four hours for Sana as she remains asleep in the ICU. Most significant I believe was that her blood pressure improved following hemodialysis treatment yesterday evening, and she was stable afterwards. Because of this good result, by day's end today doctors were considering the frequency with which to continue hemodialysis, or whether to begin a different treatment. It is hoped that her kidneys will respond to the hemodialysis.
There was also encouragement over movement of Sanaâ€™s eyelids, which was evident to everyone in the room, first while her nurses changed her position, and then again when they suctioned her lungs. Her mother and I stared, smiling at this response to the discomfort, as the nurses verified what a good sign it is. Later, again during suctioning, Kelsey reported that she moved her shoulders. Praise God!! We pray that these signs are the beginning of complete restoration to health. This afternoon an EEG (electroencephalogram) was done to measure the activity of Sana's brain, but we won't know the results until tomorrow morning.
Sana's mother was again understandably exhausted and strained to see her lovely daughter lying comatose one week following surgery. We talked of the courage it takes to keep trusting even while watching Sana struggle for life for such a long time. I explained that we hope to help her stay strong as she bears up under this sorrowful time. Again we focused on God's power and ability to help cope with these circumstances, and again, strength returned to Sana's mother's countenance. Sana's father and sister call regularly. He is a wonderful encouragement to his wife, and when we spoke together last night, he said that both he and Sana's mom want to thank everyone who is praying for their daughter. Sana's dad confirmed to me he is trusting God rather than engaging in fear. And so are all of us. Please remain persistent in prayer for Sana!
Then they said to Him, â€œWhat shall we do, that we may work the works of God?â€ Jesus answered and said to them, â€œThis is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.â€ John 6.28-29
"Hold on to hope." These words come to mind over and over as I spend time with Sana and her mother in the Sheba ICU. Today, beginning in the early morning hours, hope felt more tangible than it has in recent days. The Sheba staff began telling Sana's mother the results of blood work from Sana's hemodialysis treatment yesterday, and these numbers showed the treatment successfully lowering the dangerously high potassium level in Sana's blood. As more tests were done, it was clear that the level kept dropping, allowing for new techniques in addressing the other problems in Sana's body. Several blood pressure medications were changed, and then later today, a CT scan of Sana's brain was performed. As the hours ticked by, Sana's body began to respond to the changes. When the CT scan results came back, they showed normal brain activity. We celebrated each small step with hugs, thanks to God, and more prayer, gripping hope with all our might. Sana's mother rested better last night, and she seemed more settled today since evidence of tangible improvement is before us. But until we see Sana with the life she hopes for, the life God created her for, we will not stop watching and praying. Instead, we'll be sure our anchor is firmly set, and maintain our vigil of trust in what God will do.
Psalm 33:22 - "Let Your mercy, O LORD, be upon us, just as we hope in You."
An urgent call today from our coworker Ruth informed us that Sanaâ€™s condition had worsened. Her chronically low blood pressure since surgery, which has not been sustainably responsive to treatment, has caused several of her organs (such as the liver and kidneys) to fail. Because of the severity of this news, we quickly rushed over to the hospital to be with Sana and her mother.
Back under the unforgiving glare of florescent lighting of the ICU, we received more unsettling news. It seems that because of the low functionality of Sanaâ€™s kidneys, coupled with the sheer amount of medication she is being administered to stabilize her blood pressure and other body processes, there were dangerously high levels of potassium and other toxins in her blood. So in order to detoxify her blood, she was transferred into a different room in the ICU to receive hemodialysis.
Since receiving her hemodialysis treatment, Sanaâ€™s nurses have delivered the good news that her blood toxin levels are again within a desirable range. So for now, we continue to watch the slow drip of her various IVâ€™s and medications while praying for her blood pressure to safely and quickly increase.
(In order to be honoring of her family, and her young womanhood, we've not found any suitable photographic angle to convey Sanaâ€™s current condition.)
Yesterday morning was the first of numerous calls and messages from Shevet coworker Ruth at the hospital about Sana's unstable condition, and they were calls asking for prayer. Doctors cannot say exactly what happened, but Sana became very unstable and the staff worked tirelessly through the day and into the night to help stabilize her. Her blood pressure was extremely low, while her heart rate was very high. The seriousness of her condition rested heavily on our hearts, and we spent time in prayer for Sana and her family, looking to God from whom all help comes, seeking Him for her healing.
Having known Sana and her mother since her first surgery in Rambam Hospital in Haifa over four years ago, and having seen them in Iraq several times since, I have a special relationship with this dear girl and her family. It was, therefore, more difficult than usual to be in Jerusalem while hearing reports of Sana's struggles in Tel Aviv and her mother's deepening worry. I was thankful when we arrived at the hospital yesterday evening and I found Sana's mother. She was weak with worry and fear, yet remained steadfastly focused on praying for her precious daughter through intermittent tears and frequent phone calls from Sana's equally concerned father and sister.
We sat together by Sana's bedside, and when her mother's heart became too burdened at seeing her daughter's struggle, we moved to the waiting room. There we talked, cried and prayed about the intensity of the circumstances, continuously coming back to the reality that God was bigger, greater, stronger than what we were seeing, and how great is his love. We agreed that with Him there is hope, because there's nothing He cannot do.
During one of the times we were sitting in Sana's room, her mom suddenly recalled how very happy Sana was the night we came to the hospital for admission. She recalled Sana's prayer to God that day, and how God answered. She remembered her own prayer to God that this surgery would go forward. At this point, it was as if an internal compass needle swung around in the direction of trust. Though still vulnerable, she was visibly strengthened as she found new resolve to wait with God while Sana stabilized. Phone calls and prayers continued to punctuate our evening.
Late last night after an echocardiogram, I asked the cardiologist to help me understand what is happening. He explained the difficulty of Sana's condition like this: her heart has a new physiology, but her body has not yet adjusted to it, therefore the body systems are not able to function together normally yet. Currently, medicine and machines work with her body to help her heal, and are adjusted as they stabilize her condition. Eventually, the numbers on the screen began to show she was stabilizing, and I began to feel that the fragility of her case was maybe lessening. When I asked her nurse later, she informed me that even though Sana is stable, it is from the medications rather than the ability of her heart itself. While encouraging in one sense, it showed that the need for prayer had not diminished in the least.
Early this morning Dr. Mishali, the surgeon, came to check on Sana. He was encouraging in his comments, saying he thought Sana would be fine, would recover, and that he was optimistic. Sana's mother and I were thanking God for this news, but the numbers on the monitor were a constant measure for how soon her recovery would be evident. It is a time to hold on to hope, and to believe what we do not yet see.
When I left the hospital late this afternoon, Sana was still stable as far as the medications doing their job. However just a few moments ago we heard from our coworker Tabea that Sana's blood pressure is dropping again, and her heart rate high. Please continue with us in fervent prayer for Sana's life! There is no doubt about God's ability to heal Sana's heart, and we are watching and praying to see God heal her and raise her up again in fullness of life.
Hebrews 11:1 â€“ Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.
Just as Kelsey and I were about to leave for Sheba last night to take our turn sitting with Essa and his mom, the hospital called asking that we bring Sana for admission. "Wow, what perfect timing!" I thought to myself as I ran up the stairs to share the great news with Sana and her mom. After the shock wore off and delightful realization set in, Sana shared something which made me even more aware of the beauty of the timing. She said that yesterday she went outside to sit on our rooftop area and talk to God. She said she prayed that if Thursday is a good day for her surgery, to please let the hospital call, but if it wasn't, it was ok, and she knew God would have the right time later. You can imagine the look on her face and the tone of her voice as she shared this experience after receiving the phone call to come for surgery. She was so excited to be going forward after offering her prayer, one would think she was going on vacation!
After admission, Sana was settled into her room, and before long was watching intently as the cannula was put in for her IV medication. She was instructed to eat as much as she wanted until midnight, after which time she must fast in preparation for Thursday morningâ€™s surgery. We had opportunity to enjoy each others' company a little while before doctors needed her for a pre-surgery chest x-ray. We said goodnight with a promise to see one another early the next morning, to await together her anticipated departure to the operating room.
When I tapped on their door this morning, I found mother and daughter awake and in good spirits. They clearly adore one another, each of them a beautiful testimony to the knowledge of being dearly loved by the other. Sana was excited and thankful about what was ahead, while her mother was more subdued, but thankful and strong. Just as expected, the anesthesia team appeared at eight o'clock to be sure Sana was ready, and administered a small dose of sedative to relax her as she was wheeled into the O.R. We saw the effect of the drug immediately, as she relaxed into a half-sleep, and parted from her mother with a smile and a wave.
Sana's dear mother began the long vigil with a look of satisfied relief mixed with parental anxiety, both emotions anchored in a firm determination to keep her focus on God. Just after we sat down in the waiting room, a special visitor arrived, one of the doctors on Sana's surgical team from Rambam, a hospital in Haifa. Sana's mother contacted him last week to update on Sanaâ€™s return for her second surgery. This doctorâ€™s family played a big part in Sana's long recovery four years ago, and he wanted to show support today by coming to encourage her during the surgery. He was an encouragement to us all during the first few hours of waiting, and after he left, calls from Iraq continued to strengthen Sana's mom. Around noon, a member of the surgical team came out to say that the surgery was going well, but would last two more hours. About one-and-a-half hours later, Dr. Mishali, the surgeon, came out to speak with us just at the same time that Sana's father was on a skype call with Sana's mother. This meant that both of them could see and hear the doctor deliver the results of Sana's procedure. He said the surgery was good, Sana was stable, and he hoped in the next one to two days everything would be okay. Both of Sana's parents thanked him profusely for his help, and we waited as the rest of the surgical team finished their part of Sana's operation.
We were glad to see Sana emerge from the O.R. a little while later as she was wheeled to her room in the ICU. However, our joy and relief at a good outcome began to feel strained when, after more than an hour later, we still were not allowed to go in to see Sana. When we finally got word that we could go inside, it was with the understanding that Sana was no longer stable, and we might be asked to leave at any time. The problem was that Sana's heart rate and blood pressure were high, and doctors and nurses were working to stabilize them again. Adjustments were made both to the external pacemaker and to one of her medications to help bring her heart functions within more normal limits.
Sana's mother admitted her worry as she stood quietly apart from the activity in the room, and I could feel the tension along with her. As I began praying even more deeply than before, I heard the voice of God's spirit recall the truth of the situation to my heart. Even though there were many doctors and nurses, and many medications and machines working to help Sana now, none of them was as strong or powerful or able as the God who was also with us in the room. It was into His care that Sana's life was given this morning when she went into surgery, and nothing had changed. He was still caring for her, and we were still looking to Him for everything. I shared this perspective with Sana's mother, and she agreed it was true that God was bigger than the problems and still in charge of all things around us. The rest of my prayers are now tied to this truth on behalf of Sana and her mother.
Sana began to wake from anesthesia and was becoming alert to us, along with her extreme thirst. Only after Sana is stable can her oxygen support be removed, so it was not possible for her to have anything to drink. She began to gesture with her hands to drink something, but we had to remind her she could not have anything at this time. She seemed to be trying to figure out a way to let us know how important this was to her each time she roused from her sleep. As of this evening, however, Sana is still receiving mechanical ventilation, as she continues stabilizing. Please pray for her body to find its new heart rhythm and the healthy blood pressure to sustain it. Pray for Sana's mother and family at home to have peace as they wait, and support her and each other with their loving encouragement. Psalm 56:3-4 "When I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid."